THE LAST WORD ABOUT THE TRIP
The trip was excellent for many reasons. First and foremost, our group had
a lot of fun together. We danced together, gambled together, did yoga
together, and did lots of Swing Rueda together. There were some
differences between this trip and last year's. For one thing last year
on the Carnival
Celebration the pool was the place to be. There wasn't nearly as much
pool side action on the Rhapsody, but several
people they missed the water slide. Perhaps if the Rhapsody had a cool water
slide they would visit the pool more.
In some ways the incredible beauty of the
Windjammer Cafe with all its windows and marvelous view of the ocean replaced last year's pool
as the place to hang out.
The Windjammer Cafe was a marvelous place to sip coffee, shoot the
breeze, make friends, and get your picture taken amidst air-conditioning
and incredible beauty.
And the Windjammer was so spacious you could eat a meal in peace on the other
side of the room just in case someone might be wearing a pair of hideous
black socks that day.
The trip and the ship received many
compliments from the people who went. There was a lot to like about the
Rhapsody. For starters, the ship was drop-dead gorgeous. The picture of
the Centrum should go a long way towards proving this point.
The Broadway Melodies Theater was beautiful and the entertainment was consistently top-notch. The food was good and the cabins
although small were effective and attractive.
The staff was attentive, which includes the many people who did not work
directly for tips.
I got the impression that RCCL had combed the planet to find the most talented people from
every country to work on this ship. The crew from top to
bottom was intelligent, alert, and very personable. I loved to talk to them about their home countries and noticed how
consistently excellent their English
Punctuality and responsibility were top-notch. The attention to details everywhere was commendable.
For example, I forgot my tuxedo studs. For the very fair price of $5, I
was given a set to use for Formal Night and it was delivered in 5
minutes. The cruise ran with the precision of a Swiss watch. The staff people I met were smart and
Overall the Rhapsody was a wonderful ship with a marvelous staff. I was deeply impressed by the
excellence of this ship and its cruise line. They have a lot to be proud of.
However in the area of Slow Dance and
Romance, I thought the Rhapsody just barely touched its potential.
For starters, the Rhapsody has this gorgeous dance facility called the
"Shall We Dance Lounge". The name "Shall We Dance"
is taken from one of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' most beloved
Lounge had a beautiful sculpture of Fred and Ginger dancing at its entrance and beautiful murals inside depicting the Big Band era where dancing to live music was a major part of American life. The Lounge featured a spacious circular dance floor complete with a pole in the middle to help remind us of
home at SSQQ.
The Social Dancing on the Rhapsody would
have improved dramatically if someone had taken the time to coordinate
their phenomenal existing resources with daytime dance lessons.
What made this problem
absolutely maddening for me is I could see that dance was supposed to be
part of the program, but at
least where our dance group was concerned, they 'missed the boat'.
Night after night our group went to the gorgeous "Shall We
Dance" Lounge only to be frustrated with the band's music, the DJ's
music, and the wasted opportunities at the alleged dances (Western
Night, Sock Hop Night) where Social Dancing was practically ignored.
Rather than attempt to encourage
the entire audience to dance, the staff had been trained to promote silly party games where most
of the people just sat, drank, smoked, and passively watched with the
same enthusiasm reserved for one-sided sports events. Boredom was a
The opportunity to dance was totally wasted while the staff concentrated on embarrassing Club Med-style sex
games that could have just as easily been done by the pool. No one on the ship
seemed to realize how much fun can be created from a well-coordinated dance program complete with
dance mixers where everyone dances with everyone.
The current RCCL approach seemed to suggest the belief that their customers were passive and needed to be entertained rather than
try to get everyone out on the floor by teaching them how to dance
during the day and then reward them with a relevant dance that night.
There were 7 days of wasted opportunities.
Here in the picture on the right you have
a typical dance night.
Instead of having a floor full of people dancing the night away to a dance band,
100 people were forced to sit while 2 people stood out on the floor in
the 30-minute Hula Hoop contest or the 30-minute Steal the Hat contest. Wake
me up when the music starts.
When you throw in the constant gagging smoke from some of the spectators, the
'one-speed fits all' dance music played by the house band, and the lack of a DJ to play requests while the band took a break, you
can see how frustrating each evening was at the "Shall We Dance" Lounge.
It is true that Social Dancing as a part
of American life is in serious decline. The Art of Formal Dance has indeed become
'a Lost Art'.
I came to this conclusion during the trip and it made me feel quite sad. Isolated
from the Real World here at my Citadel known as SSQQ, I have been
blissfully unaware of how little dance is involved in most people's
But once I saw how foreign dancing was to everyone outside our
group, I realized Rhapsody probably took the easy way and just paid lip
service to Social Dancing rather than promote it.
In Rhapsody's defense and Royal Caribbean's, there is a good chance I expected too much.
RCCL was definitely superior to Carnival in the area of social
For example, on last year's trip with the Carnival Celebration, that ship had a marvelous Captain's Reception complete with a live big band and audience.
This experience was closely approximated by a similar experience on the Rhapsody. But other than that,
Carnival ignored social dancing completely on the previous year's
cruise. They got out of our way and let our group make its own dance magic.
So let me say that at least the Rhapsody got an E for Effort. But what made the Rhapsody
experience so maddening was that they had the potential to accomplish
much more. Like a bright kid who makes a C because he doesn't study, the
Rhapsody significantly underachieved in Slow Dance and Romance.
Here is how it could have been - On the
Rhapsody I noticed the daytime dance classes were packed.
looked to me like a lot of people wanted to learn to dance despite
almost no promotion. What would happen if a social dance program became
a major feature of the cruise activities?
Unfortunately this was not the case. There was
absolutely no connection between the dance lessons during the day
and the dance activities of the evening, a concept we take for granted
here at SSQQ with our Practice Nights.
Teach the Salsa in the morning
and Intermediate Salsa in the afternoon, then have Caribbean Night.
Teach the Texas Twostep in the morning, the Polka in the afternoon, then
have the Western Night. Teach Jitterbug the day of the Sock Hop. This
concept is pretty simple yet very powerful.
On the first Formal Night, promote the Captain's Reception more
completely and on the second Formal Night make it a Big Band New Year's
Women love to dress up and be glamorous. And men are generally
good sports about it too. Therefore why not make these two Formal
Nights similar to a New Year's Eve complete with band and Ballroom
Advertise an entire day around a return to the 30s. The first night of
the trip they could have their "Tribute to the Big Bands" show
to begin to build interest.
Then on the day of the Captain's Reception they could teach Foxtrot and Slow Dancing
to coordinate with the first Formal Night. Then for the
second Formal Night, they could have teach Swing dancing in the morning,
Intermediate in the afternoon, then bring their marvelous band over to
the "Shall We Dance" Lounge to reprise the melodies from their
"Tribute to the Big Bands".
By creating the "Shall We
Dance" Lounge, it is obvious that someone in the RCCL organization had the same idea I had -
to recreate the joy of an earlier era where social dancing was a big part of everyone's night life.
And then there was the wonderful, under-appreciated Robert J Band that played
Ballroom music in the atrium which supports the same idea. Many people from our group danced to this band and a few outsiders
joined us. Speaking from the man's point of view, it felt very good to
hold a woman in my arms and move gracefully together in time to the
I give Rhapsody two thumbs up for providing this dance experience in the
So you read my comments, then you say, "Well, Rick, if you're so smart, why don't you go tell them what you think?"
Now that's a good idea. Why don't I tell them? Guess what, I already did that exact thing.
Thursday morning as I ate breakfast in the Windjammer Café, I noticed that Captain Olaussen was eating by himself just a couple seats away. I went over and asked
for permission to speak with him. He graciously invited me to sit down. I told him what I did for a living. Then I explained that I felt there was a lack of coordination between the daytime dance classes and the evening dance activities.
I suggested that they customize the social dance lessons around the theme of that night's dance. That way the students would get a chance to practice what they learned and increase participation in the dancing. I also said I would train and supply the instructors from my studio if they wished in return for
a cruise for their daily efforts.
Captain Olaussen seemed to like my idea very much. He asked me to set up an appointment with Patrick Olin, the Hotel
Director aboard the ship. Later that morning I went to the offices to set up the appointment and they already
had my appointment on the books. In other words, the Captain had told them to look for me, a promising sign.
On Saturday morning, the final day of the trip, I met for 30 minutes with Mr. Olin and with Tom
Canosa, the Cruise Activities director. I handed them my five-page proposal. Mr. Olin
read what I had to say and, like his Captain, seemed very receptive to my ideas.
To my mind , Mr. Olin spoke with me as if he had accepted my offer to improve
their dance program. We exchanged email addresses and left it at that.
And that was the last I heard about it. As I write, two months have gone by and there has been no contact. No one likes to be told how to run their business
so perhaps my suggestions went straight to the trash can.
But now at least you know the real reason why I just shake my head about this cruise trip. I had hoped so much to have dancing be a bigger part of the trip
than it turned out to be.
Carnival Celebration was clueless the year before, but at least the RCCL Rhapsody seemed to be trying. I made the effort to help by talking to
the 3 men most in a position to make a difference. Why they didn't follow through is
a mystery to me.
And now you know the real reason why it
took me two months after the trip to write about the cruise. The fact is
I was disappointed. I thought I had something to contribute and it hurt
to dredge up those thoughts again.
Cruise lines should pay close attention to the intangible concept of
Romance. "An Affair to Remember", "Titanic",
and even TV's "Love Boat" have forever linked cruises and love
into the mind of the American public. It is part of the Cruise
Mystique. People want love in their life. They want luxury and
glamour. And they take cruise trips hoping to either capture that magic
or perhaps put that magic back in their lives.
Because this 'Mystique' means good
business, a cruise line should go overboard to help their passengers
find that Magic. You know and I know - but the Cruise Line doesn't know
- that a direct way to start a Romance or recreate a Romance is through
Do they honestly think silly party games are going to do it? No, these
cruise programs are run by very bright people and I am sure they
acknowledge the shortcomings of their current Club Med approach.
other hand, putting together a sophisticated dance program is hard work.
Maybe they find it too big a project to undertake. If so, I will do them
a favor and explain how it is done.
Slow Dance and Romance
comes to RCCL:
Every Cruise Trip has a
New Year's Eve!
Let's pretend someone from RCCL actually stumbles
across the SSQQ web site and decides to read this article. Here
is what my suggestion would be to them:
1. Your passengers are with you for
seven full days. People come on board looking for recreation and new
things to learn. Many people say to me if they weren't so busy in their
daily lives they would love to learn to dance. Point out that now on
board they have the free time and here is their chance to do just
2. Make a concerted effort to explain to your passengers that you
have a coordinated week-long dance program that they can participate in.
Let them know they have an opportunity to take an entire week of daily
dance lessons with nightly dancing to look forward to. Point out that
six days of dance lessons can cover a lot of ground.
3. On the very first night have
the show known as 'Tribute to the Big Bands'. The dancing and the music
in this show are really
inspiring. Then at the end have the emcee explain that the
dance lessons will prepare the passengers to learn to the fundamentals
of Swing dance as demonstrated by the professional dancers during the
4. The very next day start with two hour-long lessons (one in the
morning and more advanced in the afternoon) to prepare them to Slow
Dance at the Captain's Reception as part of
Formal Night. Explain that in addition to the Reception, throughout the
week these same steps can be practiced to the Robert J Band in the
Centrum any evening.
5. At the Captain's Reception, once they see how classy it is to dance
in formal attire to a live band on a beautiful floor in an elegant room
such as "Shall We Dance", they should buy into the entire
6. Now give them a goal to shoot for - the RCCL
week-long dance program designed to teach them more about the Art of
Formal Dance in preparation for a New Year's Eve-style Party at the end
of the trip.
Tell them there will be dance lessons
every day for the rest of the week to prepare for the fabulous
"Fred and Ginger Night". The idea is on the sixth night of the
trip there will be a huge New Year's Eve-style Formal Night complete
with Big Band music in the beautiful "Shall We Dance"
Ballroom. Even the people who don't dance will love the spectacle.
That night the people who have stayed with their lessons will have the
absolute time of their life dancing the night away. My guess is they
will remember this trip as long as they live. Whether they find the
romance they hoped for or not, they will at least be grateful that they
were given a fighting chance to find the happiness they came looking
And perhaps they will bring dance in their lives when they return to
their daily life. Then they can try finding some of that magic at home
as well. This would be a good thing.